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Art Battle

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Patrick Perry's winning submission.

Patrick Perry's winning submission. /Evan Daniels.

Artists hard at work.

Artists hard at work. /Evan Daniels

Promotional poster for Art Battle.

Promotional poster for Art Battle. /Neil Hubert

Earlier this month (Saturday, November 7th), approximately 500 individuals poured through the doors of a large warehouse at 955 Godfrey to observe 23 teams of artists compete for a grand prize of $500. For a meager $8, spectators enjoyed live music, drinks, and an evening dedicated to the arts. The event was aptly called Art Battle.

In exchange for a $30 entry fee, artist participants were given a 4 x 4 foot sheet of plywood, which they were required to use in their finished piece.  This was the only requirement. Using their own tools and materials, artists had three hours to create something from scratch. Submissions included edible mermaids, knitted entrails, animated dragons, and wearable monsters to name a few examples. During this time, spectators enjoyed live, local music (including Grand Rapid’s The Little Village) as they squeezed past one another, making the rounds from one submission to the next.

While this month’s Art Battle follows closely on the coat tails of Art Prize, make no mistake. Art Battle is not just a miniature Art Prize. The tradition of art battles goes back several years in Grand Rapids and is dedicated to the exposure and support of local art. 

According to Neil Hubert, one of the organizers for this month’s Art Battle, events such as these “expose local culture in Grand Rapids.” Hubert recalls attending his first art battle back in 2003, when he was a freshman at Grand Valley State University and emphasizes the impact that events such as Art Battle have on other artists, especially young, aspiring artists:

“[Perhaps] some kid from the suburbs makes it to the event. Maybe he is in art classes in high school, but he thinks that the Midwest, and West Michigan in particular are boring and there is no reason for him to stay. He’s dreaming about college in New York or San Francisco. But he makes it to this art battle and all of a sudden in his own backyard there is a warehouse full of well-dressed, cool people, good music, and great art.”

Hubert continues, “Art battles connect local artists with their community. They make Grand Rapids cooler. They give people in town something to do on a weekend night besides heading to the bar or a movie or a concert…The audience gets to see the progression of the artist's piece throughout the night. They can ask the artist questions on the spot. And they get to pick their favorite piece and vote for the winner of the grand prize at the end of the night.”

Patrick Perry, a student at Kendall College of Art & Design was the evening’s grand prize winner. Perry’s thoughts on Art Battle echo those of Hubert’s:

“Art events in the community are very positive for a few reasons. They allow artists and members of the art community to come together, and become familiar. Real, local, art events also help prevent a skewed perception of what art is really about. It helps reveal that not all art events are about gimmicky attention grabbers, but opens the door to a more genuine connection with the art being made around right in front of you.”

Should we expect another Art Battle in the near future? Hubert claims that he and his friends would love to stage another Art Battle, ideally planning for two per year. Hubert added, “I'd love to have the next one at the UICA (Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts). That is a great organization and if we could help them by holding an event there I'd love to do it.”

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